Bright lights, big bity - 'gay Paree' lives on
November 10, 2003
PARIS — Ever since the high kicks of the frolicking "French Cancan"
girls more than a century ago, Paris has been known as a dusk to
dawn night owl's pleasureland.
With its 100-odd discotheques, cabarets and music bars, from the
legendary long-legged kickers at the Moulin Rouge to today's
swinger joints for sharing sex with strangers, Paris continues to
exude a spirit of tolerance and open-mindedness long envied by
other big cities.
"Paris has always been renowned for its great freedom. Anything
is allowed: all you need is the address!" said journalist Frederic
Taddei, who for five years has run a programme about the city's
night-life on the cable channel Paris Premiere.
Under the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower's 20,000 tiny bulbs, the
City of Light continues to cater to the nighthawk's each and every
taste, making it one of the world's trendiest destinations.
In line with its reputation for naughty nights, three new
up-market strip-tease clubs for the monied classes have opened up
in the past two years in the better parts of Paris (Stringfellows,
Pink Platinum and Larry Flynt's Hustler), offering a welcome change
from venues previously confined to tawdry backrooms in the Pigalle
sex-shop area or on the Saint-Denis strip.
Already said to be the world leader in swinging, a pastime once
seen as the preserve of middle-aged couples whose relationships
have run out of steam, Paris has added several venues to the 40-odd
places where ever younger couples come to share themselves
The French authorities keep a keen eye on doings in high spots
of the night scene however, and one classy club off the Champs
Elysees, the 15-year-old "Baron", was recently closed down in
connection with an inquiry into pimping.
On the gay scene too, diversity is key, with around 100
specialised venues, including 15 saunas and as many sex-clubs, and
reportedly the sole men's-only gay bar in Europe where the
birthday-suit is the dress-code "de rigueur".
The big change over the last three years on the Paris scene has
been the opening of the so-called "afters" clubs -- open till noon
the next day --designed for inveterate won't-go-to-bed party-goers.
Also new and very in vogue are "club-restaurants" such as the
Cabaret on the chic and central Palais Royal square, as well as the
Wagg and Alcazar in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres district.
Foreign celebs and local star people currently are snubbing the
once legendary (place-to-be-seen) Bains Douches club, favouring
instead L'Etoile and the VIP Room in the Champs Elysees area.
Royals, their aristo hangers-on and other top-rung jet-setters
prefer the more select Ritz-Club and old-time favourite Castel.
A few weeks back French rock star Johnny Hallyday marked his
60th birthday year by opening a mega-size discotheque in the
Montparnasse district with a view to blowing a little Ibiza-style
hype into Paris.
"Nightlife in Paris and elsewhere has become an industry that
inevitably has lost its generosity, soul and love of partying,"
said Eric Dahan, who covers nightlife for the daily newspaper
"Not so! Paris undoubtedly has more parties on any given night
than any other city," said Taddei.
Because of strict laws on cigarettes and drinks advertisements,
many companies in France instead spent their ad budgets on
sponsoring big private Paris parties, which are often opened to
people without invites after midnight, when the celebs have gone
There is no longer a one-and-only "place-to-be" for trendy
clubbers in Paris since the closure of Le Palace, but hip
dance-floors hosting world-known DJs include Queen, Gibus, Red
Light, Rex Club and Folie's Pigalle, or the 287 located just
outside the city proper.
Nostalgics can still enjoy the old-time flavour of accordion
music and the quirky ballroom-dance style of Le Balajo, a club open
since 1936 to lovers of what the French call the "bal-musette".
And around a million people each year turn out to see the
dancing girls at iconic Paris venues such as the Moulin Rouge, the
Lido or the Crazy Horse, particulary popular during the Christmas
and New Year period.
This end-year will see the opening of a new cabaret, the
Taitbout, with the chorus headed by celebrated trans-sexual singer
Marie-France, the icon of the Paris underground and onetime muse of
the late singer and composer Serge Gainsbourg. –Sapa-AFP
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